TRURO — The Central Decatur boys basketball team inserted itself into the Pride of Iowa Conference championship race with a 61-51 win over Interstate 35 here on Dec. 10.
"This is a big win," Cardinal head coach Zach Clark said. "I think we announced ourselves in the conference race tonight."
Interstate 35 held a 16-10 lead late in the first quarter, but Central Decatur went on a 20-3 run that spanned nearly five minutes.
With Zach Goering, Taylor O'Dea and Jaylan White on the bench in foul trouble for the Roadrunners, Central Decatur pounded the ball inside. Dalton Rhum scored a pair of baskets in the post and hit two free throws during the run.
Once the defense began to collapse in the lane, Central Decatur went back to the perimeter, getting a pair of deep 3-pointers from Peyton Pedersen and Aaron Linhart.
Linhart's 3-pointer answered a Cole Daniels 3-pointer that had cut the lead to 32-24.
"Aaron, he has a tendency to do that," Clark said. "He takes some shots, and he doesn't have a conscience sometimes, and when they go ... the one killed their momentum in the first half, because they were starting to make a run."
Jaylan White cut the lead to 35-26 late in the first half with a pair of free throws, but picked up a third foul in the final minute of the half. Central Decatur led the Roadrunners 35-28 at halftime.
With Jaylan White out most of the first half, Jamal White stepped up and led the Roadrunners, scoring 13 of the team's 28 first-half points. Jamal White led all scorers for the game with 22 points.
"Jamal really led," Interstate 35 head coach Nate Rankin said. "That's what I told him. He led this team and really put it on his shoulders to take over. And he did."
Rhum led Central Decatur with 10 at the break and Noah Simon scored nine of his team-high 21 points in the first half.
The Roadrunners battled back out of the halftime break, twice cutting the lead to one point on baskets by Jamal White.
But, Central Decatur answered on each occasion, and started the fourth quarter on a mini 7-0 run on a spinning basket by Rhum and a 3-pointer and layup from Simon.
The Roadrunners tried to mount one final comeback, cutting the lead to 55-51 with 2:22 to go on a Taylor O'Dea basket after a pump fake.
Interstate 35 failed to score in the final 2:22 of the game, however. Goering and Jamal White both fouled out in the final :48 of the game, and after Jamal White fouled out, Jaylan White was whistled for a technical foul, ending his night.
Simon knocked down 4-of-6 free throws in the final minute and Rhum knocked down two of his own to make the final 61-51 margin.
"What a fantastic game," Clark said. "Both teams just played their hearts out. Both teams were in foul trouble — we just found a way to get it done.
"We're pretty confident if we can get Noah Simon to the free throw line," Clark continued. "And Dalton Rhum made some big ones down the stretch, too. Those two have been huge for us."
Clark said the key to the game for Central Decatur was trying to slow down Jamal and Jaylan White.
"Number one priority is to keep them out of the lane," Clark said. "We can't get extended too far, because if you give them gaps, they're going to pick you apart. And then try your best to contest their other shooters."
The win improved Central Decatur to 3-1 overall and 2-1 in the Pride of Iowa Conference. The Cardinals picked up a 60-27 win at Southeast Warren on Friday to improve to 4-1, 3-1.
Nick Durrell finished with a team-high 11 rebounds in the win over I-35, while Rhum and Simon each finished with eight. Simon dished out five assists and had four steals, while Linhart recorded a team-high six assists.
"They played great," Rankin said "Clark had them ready. They wanted to win. There's a bullseye on our back. We're getting everybody's best shot. Last year, we snuck up on some people."